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The inevitable process of aging is one thing we like to avoid but is undeniable.

 

Aging does create some wear and tear on our joints, this is natural, however wear and tear does not mean loss of resilience and function – hence the old adage use it or lose it is very relevant as the years go by.

 

 

Movement stimulates the flow of synovial fluid which lubricates our joint and creates moisture in the fascia. Movement helps the tissues flush the products of cellular activity that needs to be carried back into the circulation as part of the natural process of homeostasis. Movement stimulates the flow of the feel-good hormones that bring us joy and relaxation in both the mind and the body.

 

Most people walk for exercise, but I would argue that walking whilst a wonderful way to get some exercise, does not really challenge our musculoskeletal system very effectively to promote the resilience we need to age well. Yoga and Feldenkrais movements put the body in unusual shapes we move in and out or hold the shape and this literally reshapes our soft tissues over time. So instead of losing functional movement we can actually improve it as the years go by. Changing our movement patterns also changes our brain; patterns of thought; self-image, flowing movement, stability and ease become part of who we are with regular practice.

 

We don’t usually think about the brain in terms of how we move but the processing between the body and the brain are inextricably linked. Habitual movement patterns are very much linked to the way the brain (the top bit of the nervous system) processes movement. As we age, we tend to limit what we do in terms of exercise and movement in daily life but gently challenging the body instead of over protecting it is key to keeping your body resilient. Research is showing the importance of challenging both the body and mind; keeping the brain plastic, learning and growing even as we age.

 

The brain is involved in balance, motor planning, and different feedback loops that control our ability to move smoothly and in complex ways that are often unconscious.  Stimulating these higher brain centres with practices such as Yoga and Feldenkrais brings about healthy neuroplastic changes to our sensory motor system that improve quality of life both physically and mentally.

 

Recent studies have shown that regular yoga practice can impact Biomarkers of Aging. Increased sustained cortisol levels which results from chronic stress impacts the body in a negative way both on a cellular and systemic way. Recent studies highlight how Yoga helps the body balance the need for cortisol and reduces the chronic overproduction of this hormone that is linked to conditions of aging and chronic disease.

 

 

Another brain chemical which has been measured is brain derived neurotropic factor which is an indicator of healthy cellular aging and has been shown to increase with regular practice of yoga. Yoga essentially helps our nervous system find balance amidst the challenges of daily life and getting older.

 

Yoga is well known as supporting our innate capacity for positive mood states such as contentment, joy, peace, and creativity in dealing with life’s challenges. This is a direct result of the way we gently challenge of soft tissues and joints, regulate our breath and stay focused on the quality of the present moment in a yoga practice. A growing body of evidence links yoga with reduced inflammation and enhanced mental health.

 

Sedentary lifestyles, stress, feelings of hopelessness and being stuck are all factors that trigger a cascade of hormonal responses that increase the inflammatory response which is worth learning to manage as it is a main contributor to chronic disease.

 

Other studies recently published show that regular yoga practice reduces falls risk; protects against cognitive decline; and improves sleep. Ask any regular yogi and they will tell you these benefits are definitely positive outcomes of their practice.

 

I have covered a lot of ground in this article, but if you’d like to learn more about how the ancient practice of yoga is so relevant to you as you age on all levels of your being, body, mind and spirit, then have a read of the following articles.

 

https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-wellness-blog/yoga-for-healthy-aging-yoga-improves-memory-and-brain-function-older-adults

https://www.betteraging.com/beauty-and-wellness/can-yoga-help-seniors-fight-aging/

https://www.yogauonline.com/yoga-for-osteoporosis/long-term-benefits-yoga-include-greater-balance-control-study-shows